Bloomberg News

Clinton Urges Turkey to Boost Mideast Economy, Mend Israel Ties

November 03, 2011

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Turkey to leverage its growing economic power to promote democracy and prosperity at home and among its Middle East neighbors and to repair its damaged relationship with Israel.

“To succeed, the Arab political awakening must also be an economic awakening,” Clinton said tonight in Washington at an annual conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations, according to a text of her speech. Clinton urged Turkey to wield economic leadership as “a powerful force for progress across the region.”

Clinton will make her third trip to Istanbul as secretary of state later this week, where she plans to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan and meet with her Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu.

The Obama administration wants to boost access for new democracies to U.S., European and Turkish markets and to “open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a free, open and integrated trade and investment area,” Clinton told the American-Turkish Council, a group of business leaders dedicated to promoting U.S.-Turkish cooperation on commerce, defense, technology and culture.

Clinton also said the U.S. was dismayed by the deterioration of ties between Israel and Turkey, one of the few Muslim nations to recognize the Jewish state.

At Low Point

Relations between Turkey and Israel are at a low point following the killing of Turkish activists by Israeli commandos during a May 2010 raid on an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspended military ties with Israel and downgraded diplomatic relations last month after Israel refused to apologize for the incident. Still, government ministers and business leaders in both nations said commercial ties shouldn’t be affected, and trade between the two countries is on the rise.

“The Turkey-Israel relationship has served both countries well over the years,” Clinton said, praising both sides for leaving “the door open to reconciliation” and noting that Israel has sent mobile housing units to help relief efforts following the Oct. 23 earthquake in eastern Turkey that the government said has claimed 601 lives.

“We continue to urge both countries to look for opportunities to get this important relationship back on track,” Clinton said.

Growing Role

Clinton welcomed Turkey’s “growing role in the region and on the world stage” and reiterated U.S. support for Turkey joining the European Union.

Turkey’s economy has tripled in size in the last decade to the 17th largest in the world, Clinton noted, saying that “a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship has contributed to this prosperity.”

The U.S. believes Turkey’s new economic power enables it to play a leadership role in helping Arab and North Africans nations affected by democratic uprisings, she said.

“Increasing trade between the countries of the region would help them diversify their economies, create new opportunities for young people and support democratic development,” she said.

Clinton also urged Turkey to enhance political freedom for its own citizens.

“For Turkey to take full advantage of its new opportunities, it will have to consolidate democratic progress at home,” she said, citing the need for “ongoing constitutional reform” and greater “human rights for all Turkish citizens -- including the right to speak and worship freely.”

Clinton also praised Coca-Cola Co., Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel Corp. for promoting entrepreneurship in Turkey.

--Editors: Terry Atlas, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Indira Lakshmanan in Washington at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.


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